CLASSICAL LOST AND FOUND
FORGOTTEN MUSIC BY GREAT COMPOSERS AND GREAT MUSIC BY FORGOTTEN COMPOSERS
30 NOVEMBER 2019
The albums below are "Classical Releases Of Current Key Significance," or "CROCKS", if you will. To purchase an album, simply click on one of the Web site retail outlets given in the "AVAILABILITY" table under the write-up.
Frid, Grigori: Dbl Conc (va, pno, stgs), Sym 3 (stgs, timp), 2 Inventions (stgs); Soloists/Gazarian/Georgian CO [Capriccio]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
Not to be confused with Hungarian composer Géza Frid (1904-1989; see 28 April 2013), Grigori (1915-2012) is no relation and came from Russia's most important port on the Baltic Sea, whose name has changed on a couple of occasions, depending on the political climate in that country. Now known by its original, eponymic title of Saint Petersburg, in his youth the city was called Petrograd (1914-24), which was changed to Leningrad in the days of the Soviet Union (1922-1991).
A 1939 graduate of the Moscow Conservatory, he left a significant oeuvre across all genres, as well as some film scores. Three of his orchestral, concert-hall works are presented here, these being the only recordings of them currently available on disc.
The program opens with Grigori's Double Concerto of 1981. Scored for viola, piano and string orchestra, it brings to mind the music of his younger colleague Alfred Schnittke (1934-1998). In three movements, the initial "Lento" ("Slow") [T-1] begins with a doleful preface [00:00], where shimmering tutti accompany sorrowful opening statements for the piano [00:00] and viola [01:36]. The foregoing give rise to pensive musings for both that merge attacca into an "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast"), middle movement [T-2].
Here the music becomes increasingly distraught with perturbed, bravura passages for the soloists. These wane into a keyboard-accented, viola lament over shivering strings [04:55] that closes this section despondently.
Mellow, rising phrases on the piano introduce the final "Sostenuto" ("Sustained") [T-3]. It becomes a moving, mystical meditation for the soloists over an unearthly tutti accompaniment [05:31] and builds to a spine-tingling climax [08:39]. This slowly dissipates via a series of barely audible afterthoughts as the work evaporates into the mists of time.
Moving back to 1964, we next get the composer's Third Symphony, which would be his last. Scored for string orchestra and timpani, it brings to mind Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů's (1890-1959; see 31 May 2018) Double Concerto for 2 String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani (H 271, 1938). Like the Martinů, it's only in three movements and follows the same, fast-slow-fast design.
An initial "Allegro" ("Fast") [T-4] begins with a driving, timpani-accented theme (DT) [00:01] and related, whimsical countersubject [01:04]. These fuel a combative development [02:25], after which they return [03:49 & 05:12], and bridge with bits of DT into an agitated coda [06:55] that ends the movement definitively.
The middle "Lento" ("Slow") [T-5] is the work's emotional center of gravity. This is a series of keening episodes based on a gentle, melancholy thought (GM) heard at the outset [00:01]. These grow into a timpani-reinforced, central, crescendo of woe that ebbs into languid reminders of GM, which bring the music to a sublime, nostalgic denouement.
A closing "Allegro energico" ("Fast and energetic") [T-6] starts out as advertised with an excited subject that undergoes a contrapuntally spiced treatment [02:00] with hints of GM [03:51]. Then the Symphony slowly fades away to the sound of a wistful violin, tapping timpani and sighing strings.
In 1962, Frid completed a cycle of 19 Inventions for Piano (Op. 46; currently unavailable on disc), which were the basis for the two selections filling out this release. Titled Zwei Inventionen für Streichorchester (Two Inventions for String Orchestra, Op. 46a, 1962), they're neo-Baroque notions inspired by J.S. Bach's (1685-1750) Two and Three-Part Inventions (BWV 772-801, 1723).
The first in C# minor is marked "Moderato assai" ("Very moderate") [T-7] and has a pensive preface that gives way to a reserved, meandering melody (RM) [00:52]. RM then engenders a restrained fugue, which waxes and wanes, closing the piece in the same spirit it began.
On the other hand, its companion in F major [T-8] has a "Maestoso" ("Majestic") opening. This turns into a "Risoluto" ("Tenacious"), contrapuntally scurrying exercise, which ends the disc excitedly.
All these selections receive outstanding performances. More specifically, Dutch violinist Isabelle van Keulen, who's also an accomplished violist, along with the equally distinguished German pianist Oliver Treindl (see 30 September 2018) give a magnificent account of the Concerto. They receive superb support from the Georgian Chamber Orchestra (GCO) under their Artistic Director, Armenian conductor, Rubin Gazarian, who go on to give captivating renditions of the other works.
Incidentally, the GCO was originally founded (1964) and based in Tbilisi, Georgia. However, by 1990 Soviet cultural repression had become so overwhelming that the whole ensemble moved to Ingolstadt, Germany. Located about 50 miles north Munich, the GCO has since taken up permanent residence there as an orchestra-in-exile.
A coproduction of Capriccio and Deutschlandradio Kultur, this release is from a live performance that took place about a year ago in the Ingolstadt Festsaal. However, careful microphone placement, and presumably skillful postproduction touch-ups as well as editing preclude any extraneous audience noise or applause.
The recordings consistently present a generous sonic image in an enriching venue, with both soloists well captured and balanced against the orchestra. Lush string tone, a rich midrange along with clean, crisp bass characterize the overall sound. While there are a couple of thumps probably resulting from Maestro Gazarian's more active moments on a timpanic podium, this release easily earns an "Audiophile" stripe.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y191130)
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Hallberg: Concert Ov 2, Sym in F; Dente: Sym in d; Engström/Malmö SO/Karlsson/Swed RSO [Sterling]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Those liking Franz Berwald's (1796-1868) symphonies (1820-45) are in for a treat with this recent Sterling release. It gives us two from his younger countrymen, Bengt Wilhelm Hallberg (1824-1883) and Joseph Dente (1838-1905), both of whom studied with him. And as a bonus, the disc is filled out with a concert overture by Bengt. They're the only recordings of these selections currently available on disc.
Hallberg would leave only five orchestral works. These include two symphonies, the first being incomplete, and a pair of overtures, the second of which begins this program. Titled Concert Overture for Orchestra No. 2 [T-1], it dates from around 1864, and has a rousing introduction that hints at a charming melody, which soon appears [01:36].
This is borrowed from Swedish composer Carl Michael Bellman's (1740-1795) song "Hvila vid denna källa" ("Rest by this spring"), which is the last one (No. 82, 1788) in his collection of them known as Fredman's Epistles (pub. 1790). It bridges into a related, more retiring number [02:43], and the two ideas are repeated [03:59], giving way to a prolonged anticipatory pause [05:56]. Then allusions to the opening measures [06:01] invoke a jolly, cantering coda [06:46] that ends the Overture festively.
Next, we get Bengt's Symphony, which is in F major and was probably completed around 1870. A four-movement work, it's out of Schubert's (1797-1828) later ones (1816-28) and headed towards Brahms' (1833-1897) first two (1855-77).
An initial, sonata form "Allegro" ("Fast") [T-2] begins with a festive flourish hinting at a flighty idea that soon appears (FI) [00:04]. This is explored and gives rise to a second, singing melody introduced by the horns (SS) [01:38], which bridges via a fugato [02:04] into a saucy development of the foregoing [02:47]. Then SS returns [04:32], and with wisps of FI [05:05], concludes the movement peacefully.
The subsequent Schubertian "Menuetto scherzando" [T-3] has delightful outer sections, featuring a quaint, dance tune. These are wrapped around a coy trio based on a related, somewhat wistful thought [01:37-03:31], and end this movement full circle.
It's followed by a lovely "Adagio" ("Slow") [T-4] built on an oneiric idea, after which the pace quickens with a "Scherzando e molto vivace" ("Scherzoesque and very vivacious") [T-5]. The latter is an infectious perpetuum mobile that smacks of lyrical moments in the Beethoven (1770-1827) Choral Symphony's (No. 9, 1822-24) "Molto vivace" second movement. This brings the Hallberg to a thrilling conclusion.
Moving ahead to 1887, we get music by Hallberg's younger colleague Joseph Dente, namely his one and only Symphony in D minor. Incidentally, this won third prize in an 1888, international music competition, the first having gone to German composer Georg Schumann (1866-1952; see 28 November 2012).
In four movements, the opening one [T-6] is a letter-perfect, sonata-form offering with a stately, Wagnerian-sounding, "Andante" ("Slow") introduction. It alludes to an expansive, "Allegro, ma non troppo" ("Lively, but not too fast") first theme (EA) [01:02], which invokes a closely related, hymnlike idea (EH) [02:15]. The two then undergo a spirited development [02:59], and EA initiates a literal recap [05:12] that brings the movement to an ecstatic close with an EA-EH-based, big tune coda [06:53].
The "Scherzo" [T-7] is a "Molto vivace e con brio" ("Very vivacious and with spirit') romp with EA-like, hopping outer sections on either side of an imperious trio [00:57-02:03]. Then there's an eloquent, moving "Andante" [T-8] based on an EH-derived, nostalgic idea.
This is in complete contrast to the fiery, "Allegro vivace" ("Lively and spirited") [T-9] marked finale, which is another sonata-form utterance, but this time with an excited, Beethovenesque preface. It's succeeded by an EA-EH-reminiscent, searching thought (ES) [00:09] and related, folkish-sounding tune [01:02]. Then ES calls up a development [02:01] and stirring recap [03:09]. The latter has an EA-triggered, grandiose coda [04:57] that ends the symphony and this interesting disc splendiferously.
Swedish conductors Per Engström (Halling) and Ola Karlsson (Dente) conduct the Malmö and Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestras respectively. They deliver outstanding as well as what will probably be the only recorded performances of these symphonic rarities for the foreseeable future.
While both Hallberg recordings date from 1984, the Dente was made eight years later (1992). All present somewhat narrow sonic images in undisclosed locations, where the later one seems a bit more reverberant. The overall instrumental timbre is characterized by acceptable highs, a confined midrange and lean bass. That said, Dente's Symphony is a little richer sounding as it's for larger orchestral forces. In summary, this is not a demonstration quality disc, but the music will soon have you forgetting any sonic shortcomings.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P191129)
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Ichmouratov: Conc Grosso 1, 3 Roms (va, hp, stgs), Oct (arr stg orch); Misbakhova/Bushkov/Belarus St ChbrO [Chandos]
AUDIOPHILE BEST FIND (1 CD)
Early last year we told you about a wonderful Canadian, ATMA Classique disc with string quartets by three Montreal-based composers (see 31 March 2018). One of them was Airat Ichmouratov (b. 1973), who was born in Tartarstan, Russia, and first studied music in Kazan, some 500 miles east of Moscow. Now Chandos gives us world premiere recordings of three orchestral works from his considerable oeuvre.
By way of background, the year 1996 saw him get a degree from the Kazan Conservatory. However, two years later (1998) he permanently took up residence in Montreal, and by 2005 had secured his Masters and Doctorate there.
Subsequently, he's become an acclaimed composer-conductor. We might also add that Airat is a very talented klezmer clarinetist, and plays regularly with his hometown's, world-renowned ensemble, known as the Kleztory. On that note, he aptly demonstrates this in the opening Concerto Grosso No. 1 (2011), where he's one of the soloists along with his violist wife, who goes by her maiden name, Alvira Misbakhova.
The work is dedicated to another Canadian-émigré, Russian cellist Yuli Turovsky (1939-2013), who was Ichmouratov's friend and mentor. A modern-day realization of that time-honored, Baroque structure, here the concertino consists of a clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano, while the remaining orchestra members make up the ripieno.
In three, contiguous movements banded for easy access, the initial one [T-1] begins with jolly, twittering measures [00:02] followed by a playful, neoclassical theme (PN) [00:11]. PN smacks of cheeky moments in Prokofiev's (1891-1953) Classical Symphony (No. 1, 1916-7), and invokes a tuneful, flowing idea (TF) [00:59], which seems Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) inspired.
After that, PN returns [02:09], engendering a TF-based, balletic episode [02:44]. The latter transitions via passages of Rachmaninov (1873-1943) coloration [04:42] into the clarinet playing the melody for a Russian folk song known as Mother Dear, It's Dusty in the Field" [05:32]. This is followed by an antsy segment that ends with five, forte chords [06:52], hinting at PN [07:03].
They give way to a sustained high violin note, which bridges into the next movement [T-2]. It opens with ponderous, lower strings [00:05] and sighing, upper ones, followed by the cello playing a sad, doina-like melody (SD) [00:43]. SD is explored, picked up by the clarinet in klezmer fashion [02:19] and turns into a captivating serenade for all [02:55]. Then queasy reminders of the beginning measures [04:22] invoke an even more tragic version of SD for the viola [05:07].
This builds to a climax, which suddenly gives way to cadenza-like meditations of SD for the clarinet [06:50] and viola [07:42 & 08:18]. These trail off, ending the movement with a tension-building, sustained note for the high strings that's immediately followed by an explosive return of PN [T-3] and recollections of TF [00:12]. They're melded into a gorgeous, sweeping thought (PT) introduced by the violin [00:32] that becomes a moving canticle played by all [01:09].
Subsequent, twitchy, PN-laced passages [01:37] trigger a march-like episode that becomes increasingly agitated and erupts into a freylekh (Yiddish for "festive"), klezmer segment with a manic clarinet [02:24]. This gives way to reminders of past ideas and a big tune version of PT [03:19], which turns antsy, calling up snatches of PN [04:02]. These suddenly collapse into a sustained note on the high strings, succeeded by memories of PN from the clarinet [04:30]. And then a forte chord for all ends the work definitively.
Next, Three Romances (2009) scored for viola, strings and harp. The first [T-4] begins with rustling strings and flecks of harp, which set the mood for an introspective, melancholy tune (IM) sung by the viola [00:25]. It's food for some developmental thoughts that are respectively searching [01:38], whimsical [03:40] and nostalgic [04:20], where the last ends this delicate offering with a wisp of IM [05:01].
Number two [T-5] is a precious passacaglia with a five-note ostinato [00:00] that gives rise to an IM-related, delicate theme (ID) intoned by viola [00:31]. All this builds to a dramatic climax with celestial harp work and then wanes as reminders of the introductory measures bring things full circle.
The moody third [T-6] begins with somber, ascending passages for all, out of which a related, fateful theme (SF) hinted at by the harp [00:54] appears on the viola [02:15]. SF becomes the subject of an elegiac serenade that builds to a sinister crescendo, which fades away, closing this last Romance in the same spirit it began.
A feeling of sadness is perpetuated in the final selection, which is an arrangement for string orchestra of the composer's 2017 Octet (Op. 56; not currently available on disc). Inspired by Austrian writer Stefan Zweig's (1881-1942) novella, Brief einer Unbekannten (Letter from an Unknown Woman; pub. 1922), it accordingly bears that title.
In a single, seventeen-minute movement, the story underlying this music is one of unrequited love, loss, pain and obsession (see the album notes). Consequently, it's a programmatic, tone-poem-like offering of cinematic disposition in three adjoining, but conveniently-banded sections. These consist of slow ones on either side of a faster segment.
The opener [T-7] begins with shimmering upper strings [00:01] and a sullen amorous theme (SA) for solo viola [00:08]. SA becomes the subject of a sanguine exploration, which waxes and wanes into an SF (see above) reminiscent, ominous motif (SO) [03:20 & 03:52]. Then SO makes a developmental bridge into the return of SA [05:20]. This fuels an elegiac afterthought that ends the section enigmatically.
It's immediately followed by a middle, scherzoesque one [T-8] with SA-SF-tinged, shimmering strings that make a twitchy transition into the final slow section [T-9]. Here introspective recollections of the foregoing thematic material coalesce into a nostalgic pizzicato-spiced segment [01:55]. This suddenly gives way to a sustained high violin note [02:44], succeeded by some pensive, haunting afterthoughts [02:50]. They have wisps of SO [beginning at 03:23] and end the Octet despairingly.
These performances by the Belarusian State Chamber Orchestra (BSCO) under their Artistic Director and Chief Conductor, Evgeny Bushkov are first-rate. What's more, the Concerto Grosso recording couldn't be more definitive as the concertino features the composer playing clarinet, along with his equally talented violist wife, plus three of their compatriots, namely violinist Pavel Batsian, cellist Alexander Serdiukov and pianist Marina Romeyko. Ms. Misbakhova is joined by award-winning, Russian harpist Oksana Soshkova for the Romances.
Made one year ago over a three-day period at the Verhni Gorod Concert Hall, in Minsk, Belarus, which is about 400 miles west-southwest of Moscow, the recordings are superb. They project a generous sonic image in warm, surroundings, for which this music is all the richer.
The first two selections have the soloists positioned front-and-center, where they're beautifully captured as well as highlighted against the BSCO. Generally speaking, the sound is characterized by lifelike highs, a pleasing midrange and clean bass. That said, the string tone is as good as it gets on conventional CDs. Consequently, this disc easily earns an "Audiophile" stripe.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, Y191128)
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Kalnins, J.: Vn Conc (w Raminsh & Kenins); Zarina/Sirmais/CanOpCoO/Others [Centre]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
On the heels of the above recommendation, here are selections by three more Canadian-émigré composers. But this time around, they're of Latvian heritage and have at one time or another had Toronto connections. Each is represented by a single work, these being the only recordings currently available on disc. By the way, the album title reflects the fact that Latvia is among the world's best sources of amber.
The concert begins with Janis Kalnins' (1904-2000) Violin Concerto of 1945. Written three years before he came to Canada (1948), only badly damaged fragments of the original music made their way to Toronto. Consequently, what we have here is a painstaking reconstruction done by younger, Latvian-Canadian-émigré (LCE) musician, George Juris Kenins (b. 1952).
In the usual three movements, the initial sonata-form, "Allegro moderato" ("Moderately fast") [T-1] opens with a delicate, rueful idea (DR) [00:00] that's explored. It's followed by a related, songlike thought (DS) [02:22], which invokes a moving development [03:26] with overtones of the Brahms (1833-97) Violin Concerto (1878). Then DR-initiates a recap [06:20] with some demanding fiddle fireworks [07:32]. These lead to a last reminder of DR [09:01] that ends things peremptorily.
The middle "Adagio con espressione" ("Slow with expression") [T-2] is a ternary serenade, which begins with a brief tutti preface [00:00], hinting at a DS-tinged, yearning melody (DY) soon played by the soloist [00:27]. DY undergoes a loving treatment, after which a related, quaint theme (DQ) [05:02] fuels a middle section, where DQ is dramatically explored. Subsequently, an amalgam of DY and DQ introduce a third segment [08:51] that brings the movement to a serene conclusion.
It's succeeded by a vivacious, rondoesque "Allego giocoso" ("Fast and playful") [T-3], which opens with a blusterous orchestra [00:00] anticipating a DR-derived, perky ditty played by the violin (DP) [00:04]. DP recurs and is interspersed with some related, colorfully scored orchestral thoughts of differing guise. Then a twitchy, demanding cadenza for the soloist [06:21] invokes a manic version of DP for all [08:39], thereby closing the Concerto joyfully.
Latvian violinist Laura Zarina gives a sensitive, moving account of it and receives superb support from her compatriot Maris Sirmais, who conducts members of the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra. Their combined efforts make this recording a significant addition to the body of late-romantic concertos.
The program continues with Ms. Zarina playing Imant Ramnish's (b. 1943) Aria for Violin and Piano (1987) [T-4]. She's joined by Arthur Ozolins, who's also of Latvian heritage and based in Toronto, where he studied. Incidentally, one of his teachers was Talivaldis Kenins (1919-2008), whom we'll be hearing from shortly (see below).
At about ten minutes, Imant's sonata-form-like piece begins with a pensive keyboard preface [00:00], followed by a somber, contemplative thought for the violin (SC). SC is repeated [02:20] and gives way to a related, yearning theme (SY) [02:58], which is examined.
Then there's a pensive development [04:55], after which SY's reappearance [05:48] leads to some ominous ruminations [07:02]. These wane into the return of the opening measures [07:18], and recollections of SY [08:42] bring the work to a tranquil, optimistic conclusion.
The foregoing works were set down early this year in the CBC's Glenn Gould Studio, Toronto, Canada, and the recordings present suitably sized, sonic images in an agreeable acoustic. Both the violin and piano are well captured, with the former suitably balanced against the orchestra for the Concerto. That said, the overall instrumental timbre is acceptable with pleasant highs as well as a lean, clean midrange and low end.
Turning to that Kenins' work mentioned above, pianist Ozolins, percussionist Beverley Johnston and the Ninth Latvian Song Festival Orchestra (9LSFO) under LCE conductor Alfred Strombergs (1922-2006) take the stage. They give us his Concerto for Piano, String Orchestra and Percussion of 1990, which brings to mind Béla Bartók's (1881-1945) groundbreaking work in this genre of fifty years earlier (1940).
In three movements, the initial, sonata-form, "Molto vivace" ("Very vivacious") [T-5] opens with a scampering keyboard theme (SK) [00:00]. SK is followed by an antic exploration [00:50] with twitchy strings, knocks-on-blocks, vibraphone strokes, petulant chimes, shimmering tam-tam strokes and forceful drum tattoos.
Subsequently, the music wanes into an SK-related, haunting thought for the piano (SH) [04:21] that's developed along with SK. Consequently, SH returns [06:56], initiating a recap, where SK once again surfaces [07:36], but skitters away, followed by a caesura. Then there's a timpani-accented growl from the strings [08:09], pregnant pause, and the movement ends with a surprise, drum-enforced, forte chord.
A middle "Largo quasi una passacaglia" ("Slow like a passacaglia") [T-6] is as advertised, and has an opening, SH-derived, laidback ostinato (SL) played by the strings [00:00]. SL has embellishments for piano plus percussion, and underlies several subsequent treatments of varying disposition.
The first features a weeping keyboard with tearful percussive as well as pizzicato touches [00:54] and becomes increasingly outspoken. This gives way to a confident one [02:47], where the tubular chimes are much in evidence. After that, we get wistful treatments having a despairing solo violin [04:16] and vibraphone [05:10]. Then a museful last [07:06] with more violin ends the movement lethargically.
But gloom turns to glitter in the concluding "Presto - prestissimo" ("As fast as possible") [T-7]. Here the music gets off to an agitated start with quivering strings, nervous piano passages and more, arresting knocks-on-blocks [00:00], all of which hint at an SL-derived, nervous ditty (SN) that soon appears in the strings [00:39].
SN becomes the recurring idea for a frenetic, rondo-like movement and scampers about, taking on some colorful, percussively trenchant guises. These are followed by an abrupt pause and enigmatic, central episode [01:58]. This triggers recollections of the movement's opening moments [03:04], which close the Concerto in the same spirit as it started.
Both soloists are in great form and receive outstanding support from the 9LSFO under Maestro Strombergs (1922-2006). The recording was made back in 1991 at Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto, and presents a generous sonic image in a somewhat more live venue than the previous one. The piano and all of the percussion instruments are ideally captured and balanced against the strings.
Generally speaking, this recording is characterized by bright highs, a clean midrange and transient bass. Taking it into account with the other two, the overall sound is good, but falls a frog's hair short of demonstration quality.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P191127)
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Wordsworth, Wm.: Orch Wks V2 (Pno Conc, Vn Conc, 3 Pastoral…); Arnicane/Bydlowska/Gibbons/Liep SO [Toccata]
RECOMMENDED (1 CD)
Late romantic, British composer William Wordsworth (1908-88) was a perceptive, laconic man, who was noted for his incisiveness. Accordingly, he once characterized music as a set of dots and notes on paper meant to communicate an aural experience imagined by the composer.
Most of his output is in the orchestral category and includes eight symphonies (see Toccata-0480). There are also three concertos for piano (1946), violin (1955) and cello (1962) respectively, the earlier two of which are included here along with his first symphonic piece titled Three Pastoral Sketches (1937). They're the only recordings of these works currently available on disc.
A good summary of William's distinguished background can be found in the album notes, along with detailed, musical analyses of the selections on this CD. Consequently, we'll just cover the musical highpoints, and begin by saying there's a structural integrity as well as purposefulness about these adeptly orchestrated pieces that bring to mind the music of his colleague Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986).
Lasting a little over twenty-three minutes, Wordsworth characterized his single movement Piano Concerto (Op. 28, 1946) as the voice of an individual (soloist) versus the crowd (orchestra). It falls into five, marked and conveniently banded sections, where the first "Poco adagio" ("Somewhat slow") [T-1] gets things off to a thoughtful start. But the music turns combative in a couple of subsequent "Allegro feroce" ("Fast and furious") ones [T-2 & T-4], the second of which has a demanding cadenza.
They surround a lovely, "Adagio cantabile ("Slow and songlike"), nocturne-like offering (AN) [T-3] that's followed by a spirited "Coda" [T-5] of cooperation between piano and tutti. Here there's a brief remembrance of AN, and then the work ends forcefully.
Moving back almost ten years, we get William's youthful Three Pastoral Sketches (Op. 10, 1937). He was a nature lover, and these are impressions inspired by the English countryside. The initial "Sundown" [T-6] has a pair of contrasting themes that are gently meandering [00:00] and sorrowfully hymnlike [02:59]. They're combined in the closing measures and end this tone picture darkly.
Then there's another somber utterance titled "The Lonely Tarn" [T-7]. As the album notes point, this brings to mind "Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age" in Gustav Holst's (1874-1934) The Planets (1916).
And last but not least, we get "Seascape" [T-8], that's in three segments, better characterized by the composer's alternate name for it, "Mountain, wind and sky". Accordingly, the initial one has dreamy, soaring passages that invoke images of formidable peaks. These transition into a tempestuous episode [01:18], after which recollections of the opening measures [05:21] close this impression in the same spirit it began.
The Violin Concerto (Op. 60, 1956) is scored for a large orchestra that includes a three-man percussion section. One of William's most impressive works, it's in three movements, the first being a modified, sonata form "Moderato e sostenuto" ("Moderate and sustained') [T-9]. This begins with a somber, sauntering theme for the orchestra (SS) [00:00] that's mimicked by the soloist and explored. SS is followed by a related, commanding idea for the violin (SC) [02:56], which becomes the subject of a tutti, fugal episode [03:04].
The latter transitions into a developmental section with a more intense fugal segment [07:05]. Subsequently, the music waxes and wanes into a vibraphone-spiced version of SS (SV) [09:05], which may bring to mind the Vaughan Williams (1872-1958; see 16 December 2013), Symphony No. 8 (1956), first movement's closing moments. SV then engenders an effecting recapitulation with an SC-tinged, twitchy coda [13:40] that ends this movement dramatically.
Next, we get an "Andante cantabile" ("Flowing and songlike") [T-10] that's a melodic outpouring for all. It begins with an SS-reminiscent, wistful idea introduced by the orchestra (SW) [00:00], after which the violin plays an oneiric version of SW (SO) [01:10]. SO then becomes the lifeblood of a captivating serenade with engaging passages for the soloist.
These build with brass support into a short-lived climax that fades with eerie, underlying tam-tam strokes into the concluding "Allegretto -- Allegro spirituoso" ("Lively -- Fast and spirited") [T-11]. This is a mischievous, brilliantly scored rondo, which begins with an SW-colored, impish theme for the violin (SI) [00:00], soon followed by a related, flowing thought played by the tutti (SF) [00:23]. SI is bandied about with reminders of SF [01:46[, plus percussive touches that include arresting knocks on wooden blocks [02:31].
The foregoing transitions into an extensive, demanding cadenza for the soloist [07:15], and subsequent return of the orchestra [10:14]. Then the music bridges purposefully into a euphoric, coda-like, amalgam of SS, SW, SI and SF [10:50]. It has virtuosic flourishes for the soloist [12:20] as well as more of that vibraphone [12:42], thereby bringing the Concerto and this release to a rousing conclusion.
Latvian pianist Arta Arnicane and Polish violinist Kamila Bydlowska distinguish themselves with technically accomplished, committed performances of the Concertos. They receive outstanding support from the Liepāja Symphony Orchestra (LSO) under acclaimed, British conductor John Gibbons, who along with the talented members of the LSO, give a moving account of those Sketches.
The recordings were made this year at the Great Amber Concert Hall, located in Liepāja, Latvia, and project a consistently generous; however, somewhat distant sonic image in affable surroundings. The overall instrumental timbre is characterized by steely highs, but acceptable mids and clean, low bass. The Concertos find each of the soloists placed center stage and adequately captured as well as highlighted against the orchestra.
Everything considered, while the sound is serviceable, it falls a bit short of "Audiophile". Also, depending on your system configuration and/or settings, some may find the sonic image skewed a bit left, and want to tweak their balance controls accordingly.
-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO.com, P191126)
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